By Sgt. Mike Pryor, USA
Special to American Forces Press Service
Jan. 14, 2007 – Soldiers throughout history have marched into battle fortified by the prayers of their spiritual leaders. But the healers who care for those soldiers when they fall got a special blessing here Jan. 12 as they prepare to move with their 82nd Airborne Division into Iraq. The 82nd Airborne Division's 2nd Brigade Combat Team held a service here to bless the brigade's medical personnel before they deploy.
The 2nd BCT is expected to deploy into Baghdad soon to help reclaim neighborhoods controlled by insurgents. Paratroopers from the 2nd BCT's 1st Battalion, 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment say they are ready for that fight, but that the constant training they are receiving here is helping ensure they stay prepared.
Maj. Jeffrey Hawkins, the brigade chaplain, said the event was planned to honor and support the medics and strengthen the bond between the 2nd BCT's chaplains and medics. "There are special bricks that get put in the rucksack of a caregiver. They carry a burden that not everybody has," he said. "We wanted to honor that."
The blessing took place at the post chapel on a bitterly cold, rainy night. Some of the medics who attended had just come from training in the field, and were still wearing their wet, muddy body armor. But the atmosphere inside the chapel was warm and friendly, with handshakes, backslaps and hugs exchanged freely.
The service was short. After prayers and the recitation of the Medic's Creed, the lights were dimmed and, in the flickering candlelight, Chaplain Capt. Rodney Gilliam gave a benediction to the assembled group.
"It just gives them a little spiritual ammunition to go with their ballistic ammo," Hawkins said afterwards.
After the service, the medical personnel who attended said they were proud and grateful to the ministry team for including them.
"It's always nice when people can stop and recognize what the medics do," said 1st Lt. Erin Crofford, a medical evacuation platoon leader with Co. C, 407th Brigade Support Battalion.
Crofford said it was logical that the chaplains and medics should come together, since they often work closely in combat. "Wherever you find medics, chaplains are close by," she said.
Pfc. Timothy Schilz, a medic with Co. C, 407th Brigade Support Battalion, said he was glad for the opportunity to share a special moment with the team. "There's nothing better than chaplains and medics coming together. There is a bond there," Schilz said.
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